As an iNaturalist project admin, I completed a review of over 19,000 American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) observations uploaded to iNaturalist between 2009 and December 31, 2020. Photographs which depicted an American Alligator eating a prey item were added to the iNat Alligator Appetites Project. The result revealed a gruesome smorgasbord of dainties enjoyed by this giant reptile.
In his 1935 book titled The Alligator’s Life History, E.A. McIlhenny (of the Tabasco family) wrote, “It is quite safe to say that the food of the alligator at some period of its life, consists of every living thing coming in range of its jaws that flies, walks, swims, or crawls that is small enough for them to kill, and covers a tremendously wide range. After they reach three feet in length and larger, any creature inhabiting the land or water which they can catch and swallow is good food.” This is no doubt a true statement!
A review of the 110 observations added to the project, fish and reptiles nearly tied for the top prey items at about 25% each, with birds and mammals nearly tying in second place around 14% each. Truly, the American Alligator is an opportunist that doesn’t discriminate or turn its nose up at a particular menu item… even another alligator!
• Fish 26%
• Reptiles 25% (20 turtles, 4 alligators and 3 snakes)
• Birds 15% (4 Great Egrets, 2 Gallinules, 1 Red-winged Blackbird, 9 unidentifiable)
• Mammals 14% (4 feral pigs, 4 nutria, 3 raccoon, 1 deer, 1 opossum, 2 unidentifiable)
• Unknown/Other Prey 19% (11 unidentifiable, 8 human handouts, 1 crab, 1 frog)